Over on the forums, I started a discussion about a new term being used by some adoptive parents for expectant mothers considering adoption. I supposed I should launch into a brief bit of adoption etymology before I continue on with the newest evolution of language.
Awhile ago, many adoptive parents were referring to expectant mothers considering adoption as birth mothers. This wasn’t sitting well with a large number of us. The main reason being that you are not a birth mother until you sign the Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) thus relinquishing your rights as the child’s one and only mother. Many of us found that unethical agencies, attorneys and individuals use this tactic to separate a mother considering relinquishment from her child mentally before the physical separation takes place in order to benefit their clients or themselves. After many discussions, we saw mothers being referred to as they should be: expectant mother or, abbreviated as words are too hard for the general population to type out, emom.
And all was quiet for awhile.
And then, just recently, this new term popped into our radar. Expectant mothers considering relinquishment are being abbreviated as “exmoms.” No, I’m not joking.
In my discussion of the topic on the birthparent support forum, many (and not just birth parents) voiced their distaste for the term. Ex, of course, has a negative connotation. It is someone from your past. While I personally have a casual-acquaintance-type-relationship with a few of my ex-boyfriends all that means is that we’ve left a MySpace message or two for one another and nothing negative was said. Exes don’t usually bring up thoughts of roses; they’re usually accompanied by anger, sadness or general dislike. There’s no love, admiration or mutual respect.
Even better is one of the dictionary definitions for the prefix of ex.
without, not including, or without the right to have
Without the right to have? My child? When the child is only my child and no one else’s as I have not signed the TPR? I think not!
The discussion has taken some twists and turns along the way. Someone jumped to the defense of the term, saying that those using it didn’t know that they were being offensive. Brandy, a birth mother and adoptee, brought up a very good point.
So…(because I just want to make sure I understand) – when someone (involved in adoption) uses ‘ex mom’ we’re supposed to be ok…because the intent is not to offend…
…so I ask…when uneducated people, not intending to offend, call your childs birth mother his or her ‘real mother’ do you…just…walk away, because you know the intent is not to offend?
Really – intent or not…if we’re offended, we should speak up and our voices really should be heard…I mean, I see this no different than the ‘real mother’ vents I see on the forums…it IS offensive and it SHOULD be addressed…its just a courtesy thing (regardless of intent).
And it’s true. Adoptive parents shouldn’t have to be subjected to hearing real mother comments from even those who are uneducated about adoption. (Ahem. Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law. And its no excuse for insulting or being disrespectful.) I’m sure it is a really hard thing to hear as an adoptive parent, perhaps even harder when it is coming from someone who should understand. And that’s why this exmom thing is so alarming. An adoptive parent planning on adopting a child should know better. A discussion arose that they are yet uneducated about the ins and outs of adoption terminology and some slack should be cut. And I say that’s a lame excuse.
This is where our education for adoptive parents is falling short. They are not receiving the counseling that they need to have a relationship based on mutual respect with the birth mother of any child that they should adopt. They are not being counseled as to how a mother is nothing more than a mother until the TPR is signed. They are not being taught any of these things. Those defending this lack of counseling will say that semantics don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But as Brandy’s point states clearly, we all have words and phrases and terms that hurt us. Why is it okay to hurt expectant mothers but not adoptive parents? If we are required to be respectful, so should those who are actively in the process of adopting.
Call me a birth mother instead of a first mother. Fine. Tell me that I gave up my daughter. Okay. But leave these mothers who have not yet signed up for adoption related drama alone. Refer to them, if you must be so lazy to need to abbreviate, as emoms. Save the ex talk for songs about Texas, okay?